Bad Signal

When Randy Angle disappeared, he left behind a multimillion-dollar fortune in a two-way radio -- and an ugly secret

Although Angle didn't trust the government or legal system enough to hire a lawyer, his unsophisticated control of a piece of the airwaves in the nation's seventh-largest dispatch-radio market turned out to be a government-given bonanza -- but one he would reap nothing from in the end.

When Paula was allowed to liquidate the company's assets to satisfy a judgment she'd been awarded against her father, she sold a set of licenses to Nextel, the cellular giant, for a stunning $6.8 million.

"She's a wealthy woman now," says Brenda Collier, her attorney. "But I don't know if there's any amount of money that would make up for what this young woman went through. She's had a very hard life."

Paula Jenkins shows her lawyer around the family business in May 1999.
Paula Jenkins shows her lawyer around the family business in May 1999.

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Two things stand out in Paula Jenkins' mind about her early childhood in the southwestern corner of Ohio, in the years before the Angle family moved to Texas.One was some sort of row over her father's radio business, in which the police came and a partner ended up with his radio shop. The other was the way the family got out of town just ahead of a visit from child-welfare workers.

Paula, the oldest of four daughters, recalls two distinct family lives: one when her father was home, one when he was out working in his business. Lucky for them, he worked like a fool.

"When he would go to work, he'd work late, and our family would be fine," she says. "My mother would be home, and we'd be fine. As soon as we knew he was coming home, we'd be hiding in our rooms and that kind of thing. We'd be scared to death."

Angle never seemed to be happy. "He hit everybody," she remembers. "He was angry all the time."

Punishments for the smallest infractions included isolation in one's room for days without meals. "We'd have to wait until he was asleep and sneak into the kitchen to eat."

Recalls Mark Weathersby, a radio technician who several years later worked in the Angle shop in Garland for a while, "He could make those girls cry with just a look." He could be physically intimidating at 5-foot-10, 225 pounds, solid from work and working out. He was balding and, more recently, bearded.

Some time in the late '70s -- Paula can't recall the exact year -- a child-welfare worker was expected at their Ohio house. Her father packed up the family overnight and moved to Garland, where an even bleaker home life ensued.

By the time Paula was in the fifth grade, her father had begun to sexually assault her. In what she thinks was some sort of attempt to cover his sins, he dragged the family to church on Sunday, sometimes Sunday nights and Wednesday nights, and talked about religion a lot to people at his shop. He preferred small evangelical churches with 30 or 40 families, where he would sometimes serve as a deacon or the head of the "sound ministry."

The kids went to church schools too, until teachers began asking questions. "Someone told one of their classmates about what was going on [the sexual abuse], and her friend started to have nightmares. She told her parents, and they told the pastor. Randy made up some sort of story, and we'd move on," Paula recalls.

One family friend from church, Angie Stanford, says she and her husband also confronted Angle, who didn't confirm or deny the allegations of incest. "He was non-responsive," Stanford recalls. From then on, Paula says, it was homeschooling at their house in Rockwall. The kids taught themselves using readers and books, and they never had friends. While Randy indulged his interests in guns, fast cars, and music equipment, "we'd have to share panties and socks and stuff," Paula recalls. "Their [Randy and Dana's] needs were always taken care of."

As a result of the abuse, "My mother and I never had a normal mother-daughter relationship," Paula says. Dana Angle was clearly aware of the situation, Paula says, but chose to ignore or deny it. She picked up the kids from church school the day the pastor, who had become aware of the abuse allegations, raised the issue.

And a more like-minded husband and wife would be hard to find.

For as long as Paula could remember, Angle was big on guns and conspiracy theories and secrecy, and Dana went along. When the Committee for Legal Reform, a fringe common-law group, began holding seminars at the Hiltop Inn in Dallas, Dana went with Randy and ended up buying various books and tapes, attending more sessions than her husband. They both obtained through the mail "international drivers permits," which purport to have been issued in Managua, Nicaragua.

Out near Fruitvale, at the couple's Van Zandt County ranch, Randy had hooked up a generator-battery device that provided enough power to let them unhook from the grid. The two would listen on the shortwave to militia leader Bo Gritz, the former Green Beret commando who hosts a radio program for the far-right militia movement. One colleague in the radio business recalls seeing a picture of Angle in a militia beret, but those he has left behind who will talk about such matters aren't quite sure what affiliations he had.

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